The Buffalo Bills on Wednesday released four veteran players, all of whom had questionable futures with the team. Running back Anthony Thomas, linebacker Coy Wire, cornerback Jerametrius Butler and reserve guard Aaron Merz were all let go as the team prepares for the start of the free agent signing period, which begins at the stroke of midnight tomorrow.
The release of Wire has the biggest immediate impact on the team, as the backup linebacker was a long-time special teams ace under Bobby April, and served as the unit's co-captain last season. His departure (which was due to his failing a team physical after off-season neck surgery) enhances the need to retain one or two of its top special teams free agents (WR Sam Aiken, LB Josh Stamer, LB Mario Haggan, TE Ryan Neufeld).
The writing was on the wall for Thomas, who after being placed on IR watched the little-known Fred Jackson make a big impact in Buffalo's offense late in the season. With offensive Turk Schonert re-implementing the fullback into the team's offense - increasing the need for numbers at the tight end and hybrid tight end/halfback/fullback positions that Tom Modrak has spoken of - the team did not have the depth needed to keep Thomas. The Bills now appear set at running back headed into next season with a depth chart of Marshawn Lynch, Jackson and Dwayne Wright.
Butler, a mid-season signing last season due to injury, stood little chance of making next year's roster. Merz, who spent all of the 2007 season on Injured Reserve, could not shake health problems and as a result could not climb the depth chart in his first two seasons.
With these moves out of the way, the Bills apear fully set roster-wise for the start of the trading and free agency period.